HemorrhagingFaith n YOUTH AND YOUR CHURCH
Local Church Solutions
That enliven Youth
By Dave Overholt
Youth ministry rarely rises in importance until we
notice that youth are leaving our churches.
Older generations may bristle at new music or ideal- istic attitudes until their children and grandchil- dren fall from their faith community.
Hemorrhaging Faith: Why & When Canadian Young
Adults Are Leaving, Staying & Returning to the Church
has shifted the ground beneath Canada. The 2012 report ( www.hemorrhagingfaith.ca) revealed that 70 per
cent of children who grow up in all denominations will
leave the Church.
During this past year many have used this statistic to
cry, “The sky is falling!” and have huddled, waiting for
the world to end.
However, hundreds of churches have used this study
to build a firmer future for the Canadian Church.
As we mine for solutions to reach and keep this next
generation, we must dig deeper than changing music
styles or dress codes. This new generation understands
Truth by asking the questions: Does it work? Does our faith
produce the peace and joy it claims? Does this Christianity
produce a community where love and authenticity abound?
This is the one door this generation has opened for us.
To reach beyond their walls we must show them our
faith does work. The EFC’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry Roundtable, the group that commissioned and helped
shape the Hemorrhaging Faith study, has looked for the
many bright spots of churches reaching and keeping youth.
Here are some of the solutions in local churches.
Intergenerational Relationships. Reaching and keeping this generation can be distilled to two relationships:
As adults share great stories
of faith they have experienced,
a hunger for similar experiences emerges (see Psalm 71:16-
18). My church has an adopt-
a-student program, where
families are placed with one or
more university students. The
family cooks a lunch meal for
them and/or does their laun-
dry once a month. Around the
tables they share their faith
walk and become a faith home
away from home.
Churches in Winnipeg have a
mentoring program where high
school students choose an adult
who will meet with them once
a month throughout their high
school career. They may go out
to eat, go bowling or just go for
a walk. The adult simply prays
with them and shares how they
are growing in God. Simply coach-
ing the adults to approach young
people in the services and get-
ting to know them shows young
people love and tells them something is working here.
Intergenerational Service. The study found that
often the younger generation is not allowed to become
significant collaborators in the ministries of the church.
We build too many barriers before young people can
get involved. In my church the average age is in the 20s.
They will only give me two weeks to involve them before
boredom sets in.
Young people’s idealism and passion are a needed
voice in many of our “adult ministries” beyond any pro-
grammed “youth service.”
Some churches have tried – young people serving the
coffee, taking up the offering, giving their testimonies,
sharing a part of the message, doing the children’s story,
playing special music, reading a poem or performing a
drama. We signal who is welcome to our church by who
is allowed on the stage. Recently I asked a 25-year-old
why she was so involved in my church. Her answer was
that I asked her to cook some food for an outreach the
first week she attended.
Younger generations’ involvement signals to everyone
that we are taking young people seriously. You may also
be surprised by their friends who attend to cheer them
on. Serving side by side is another way to display that our
faith walk works over a lifetime.
Being Real. Young people seem to smell “the fake” faster than anyone. They are not looking for polished performances. Vulnerability and authenticity trump perfection.
When my daughter was looking for a local church during her university career, she chose one that didn’t have